Fatoumata Diabaté

Every so often, ideas come to me at night… Before falling asleep, I sometimes dream with my eyes open

Born in Mali in 1980, Fatoumata Diabaté is one of the few female photographers to make a living from her art in Africa. A committed artist, her style is a mix of photojournalism and fiction.

Published on 03/09/2020

5 min

Having studied silver-based photography at the Centre de Formation Audiovisuel Promo-Femmes de Bamako in 2002, Fatoumata Diabaté went on to win the Visa Prize for Creation in 2005 following her first African Photography Encounters (Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie) exhibition in Bamako. A few years later in 2011, she completed a residency at the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac. Passionate about the apparent spontaneity of the photographic act, in 2013 she created the “Le Studio photo de la rue”, a mobile photography studio designed in homage to the fathers of African photography, Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta. Here, Fatoumata Diabaté takes black-and-white portraits of passers-by, taking the time to accessorise them with plastic bouquets of flowers, bracelets and hats. In doing so, the artist is following in the footsteps of the African photographers of the 1950s.

In her work and particularly through her portraits, Fatoumata continually questions identity. To her, photography is a dialogue between the photographer and her subject; she therefore defines herself as a “social photographer”.

As for her images, they are an opportunity to talk about humanity, bring her country's stories and legends to life, provide moral lessons and rebuild the connections between people and their environment. Her series “L’homme en animal” (2011) and “L’homme en objet” (2013) depict women and young people in this vein, most of them masked. At the 25th Bamako Encounters in 2019, the artist organised the exhibition “À contre-courant”, dedicated to women victims of femicide. The work was designed by the Association of Women Photographers of Mali, of which she is president.


Very highly regarded in Mali, Fatoumata Diabaté has taken part in African Photography Encounters on three occasions. She has also held many individual and group exhibitions in France and around the world, including at the Fondation Blachère (2012), the Le Havre Natural History Museum (2017) and Voies Off - Arles (2018) in France, and at Shutter Art Space in Guangzhou, China (2019). An internationally recognised photojournalist, she has reported on clinical trials of the Ebola vaccine for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2014) and on the food crisis in Niger for the Oxfam Global Citizenship initiative (2012).

  • 2002


    Fatoumata Diabaté is one of the first women to enter the Bamako Photography School (Centre de Formation en Photographie de Bamako).

  • 2005


    She takes part in the Bamako Encounters and wins the Africa Prize in creation from the French Association for Artistic Action (Association Française d’Action Artistique - AFAA).

  • 2006


    Recipient of the Africalia creativity bursary, she takes part in the first RePhArt festival in Benin.

  • 2013


    Fatoumata Diabaté creates “Le Studio photo de la rue”, a mobile photography studio that pays homage to 1950s African photography.

  • 2017


    She becomes president of the Association of Women Photographers of Mali.

The Institut français and the artist

Recognised in 2005 by Visas pour la Création (Visas for Creation) which supports emerging artists in Africa and the Caribbean through residencies in mainland France and its overseas territories.

Find out more about Visas pour la Création

Fatoumata Diabaté benefit in 2020 of IF Incontournable, aims to support the presence of artists at major locations and events for contemporary creation around the world 

Learn more about IF Incontournable

L'institut français, LAB